Beyond The Campfire was created to encourage readers to explore the great outdoors and to observe it close up. Get out and take a hike, go fishing or canoeing, or simply stretch out on a blanket under a summer sky...and take your camera along. We'll talk about combining outdoor activities with photography. We'll look at everything from improving your understanding of the basics of photography to more advanced techniques including things like how to see photographically and capturing the light. We'll explore the night sky, location shoots, using off camera speedlights along with nature and landscape. Grab your camera...strap on your hiking boots...and join me. I think you will enjoy the adventure.

Prairie Sunrise

Prairie Sunrise
Prairie Sunrise

Sunday, June 24, 2012

How vs Why

In recent years I've taught a few photography workshops and invariably the single most asked question is..How do I make my camera work?  As novice photographers, we all go through that phase of How.  It's an important aspect and basic to all good photography.  Unfortunately, many photographers never really climb out of that mode of asking How.  They are continually seeking how to take a certain kind of picture or how to use a particular camera feature.

The fundamentals of photography are actually quite straight forward...its all based on aperture control, shutter speed, ISO, and in the digital world...White Balance.  It's the combination(s) of these four elements that dictate the final exposure value.  Learning how to frame or compose an image is also based on basic elements and those fundamentals can be learned with some practice.

So why then do many want-a-be photographers never really seem to progress in the quality of their images?  Part of the answer I've already stated...they continually stay in the How phase of photography...but the most important element that prevents someone from advancing is that they fail to understand or grasp the concept of Why.  I could teach someone all the basics...send them to a favorite location where many great photographs have been taken and have them shoot a series of images...and their images will often look rather ordinary.  The reason for this is because most photographers approach their photography like this:

         How do I capture this scene?  How do I setup my camera?   I'll just let the camera decide what works best.

The result can be quite predictable...ordinary snapshot images.

I need to qualify a few things before I continue.  First of all, I still continue to learn new things about photography almost everyday and I am continually amazed at some of the amazing images others take...but when someone asks me...How did you take that image...the answer is not some much how...but Why.

You see, almost anyone can learn the fundamentals and know all the technical elements they need to know to make great photographs.  Where they fall short is that they fail to ask themselves why should I take one shot or another.

When I am asked a question like the one above, my answer usually focuses more on why I took the shot...the  light, the angles, the structure, the textures, the mood, the mystery....these are all why reasons to take photographs.  Most photographers stop short of asking themselves these kinds of questions...actually it's not so much asking a question as it is simply recognizing when all of the elements exist.

 A photograph you take is as much a part of you as the words you use to describe the image.  Always remember to look for those elements that answer the question why in your photography.  When you do that...then your photographs take on a whole new context and dimension.

When someone sees an image I've taken I always want them to visually understand why that moment was important to me...why did I take that shot...because it spoke to an emotional part of who I am.


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